Affordable Care Act outreach in high gear

Public and private sectors, non-profits join forces

Published On: Oct 01 2013 06:27:52 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 01 2013 06:20:23 PM CDT

In a grassroots effort to reach the city’s estimated 300,000 uninsured, the public and private sectors -- as well as nonprofit groups -- have joined forces to get the word out about the health insurance marketplace that is now open for business.

Mayor Julian Castro said the object is “to ensure that every single person who is uninsured has the information and the resources he or she needs to enroll under the Affordable Care Act.”

Castro was among a contingent of community leaders at the Centro Med clinic in the 3700 block of Commercial Avenue, the site of an event from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday where people can get information or enroll in one of the nearly 60 plans available locally.

Among those who met with one of Centro Med’s certified application counselors was Katie Horrell, who said she’s never had health insurance of her own.

Horrell said she expects there will be ups and downs at first, “As long as it doesn’t put a slam into my getting medical taken care of because my life depends on it.”

Castro and City Manager Sheryl Sculley said various websites can help, along with city staff who have been trained to direct the public where they can go.

“The government shutdown has not affected the Affordable Care Act moving forward,” said Joanna Antongiovanni, an employee benefits specialist with the Wortham insurance brokerage firm.  

She said what is being offered is private insurance, not government insurance.

“I think insurance agents are the key to understanding the more than 50 different private plans that are federally qualified under the Affordable Care Act,” Antongiovanni said.

She said her company’s website has links where people can get quotes directly from health insurance companies.

Antongiovanni said her agents have been fielding calls and emails all day from people who were unable to log into the government’s website due to the crush of inquiries.

“I feel like I’ve never been so popular in my whole life and I’m sure that agents around town feel the same way,” Antongiovanni said.

She said many of the calls have been from those already insured wanting to know what will happen to their policies in the near future, as well as others seeking health insurance.

Antongiovanni said the effective date is Jan. 1, 2014.

“You cannot buy coverage for tomorrow or even next month,” she said. “I would tell people to hang tight and wait a little bit.”